Inside the Custom Closet Design Process: Q&A with Designer Paula Montemuro
When you’re ready to make the leap from your builder-grade closets or the DIY organization system you’ve been living with—unhappily—for years, the first thing The Closet Works does is set you up with a free, in-home consultation with one of our Design Consultants. Design Consultants at The Closet Works are experts who listen to your needs and design a custom closet that will help you stay organized.
Here is what Design Consultant Paula Montemuro has to say about how she tackles each custom project.
Before you start the custom design process, make sure you know your style!
What types of clients do you typically work with?
My clients are often new homeowners who I’ll design a closet for before they move in. Often new homeowners are young couples that want basic designs—their goal is to get organized.
On the other hand, I also have more established homeowners upgrade to a custom closet because they want a gorgeous, functional closet.
What attracted you to becoming a custom closet designer?
I worked as a paralegal for 35 years, and when I retired, I wanted to reinvent myself. I always loved design and I’m a highly organized person, so designing closets was a natural fit for me. I went back to school for Interior Design to get the principles of design down—it’s not just having good taste, it’s also important to understand space. I was lucky to find a second career that allows me to learn new things and be passionate about it.
How do you begin a consultation?
When prospective clients set up their consultation appointment, they let us know what they’re interested in having done.
When I get to a client’s house, we go right to the closet space because it’s easier to see what space we’re dealing with as they discuss their wants and needs. We discuss whose closet it is and what their goals are. I also take an inventory of their clothing and accessories—for example, how many pairs of shoes they have or how much double-hang space they need. We talk about how they like to store their clothes—do they fold them? Do they like to hang their pants over hangers or straight from the waistband?
I don't want to change someone's way of doing things. I want to work with how they're used to doing things and make it more organized and practical for them. Obviously I also want to give them more space.
During this process I’ll begin making a list of what they want and offer suggestions along the way. Then, I go back and measure. Once I have measurements, I typically discuss where I'm thinking of putting things to help them visualize what their closet will look like. I find that a lot of times people have a hard time reading designs off a plan.
What are the most common problems your clients have?
Sometimes we get calls from people whose closets have failed them—there’s the whole rod-fell-off-the-wall problem!
Others have grown out of their space and they're trying to make more space. For example, builders have a tendency to put just one rod up when they could put double hanging rods to create more space.
Some clients are trying to make [their closets] look nicer and more finished. Or some people are so disorganized and they need help.
What is your favorite custom closet feature?
It’s difficult to answer because until you go into someone’s closet you don’t realize what they might need—someone might be really into shoes and need a lot of shoe storage, or they might have a plastic hamper sitting on the floor and we tell them, “You know, we have these tilt-out hampers and they look beautiful and match the rest of the closet. You can take that plastic thing off the floor!” People also don’t realize you can get drawers and dividers to hold jewelry. How wonderful is that? I think it really depends on who you're meeting with.
What closet design trends are you seeing?
Color is a huge trend. There are so many beautiful colors out now—new sand, stone and sky tones, as well as many wood textures.
I work with interior designers on custom closets and one trend we’re seeing is two-toned closets—for example, a flat front panel and textured side panels. Mixing and matching is really big—and it’s gorgeous. I’ve also seen some interesting countertops like a smoky mirrored countertop that looked beautiful under a chandelier in a recent walk-in closet project.
Hardware is also really big. Brass has gotten more popular and is being used with sand and stone tones.
Finally, another big trend that I’m seeing more and more of is Murphy beds. Many people are no longer buying big homes, so they’re doubling up an office and a guest room or a playroom and a guest room, for example. You can put [a Murphy bed] with a bookshelf in an office and voila—you have a bed! Many people want to use a bedroom as an office, but they don’t want to give up the idea of having a guest room, so it makes the room more functional.
What’s your favorite design trick?
When we’re looking at the space I offer suggestions of how certain spaces should be used. I say, “Why don't we put the shelving here and shoes here, so that when the client receives the design plan they can easily read it. It’s also a way to find out if a client is opposed to putting one type of storage in a particular place. For example, some clients like to have their shoes on display as soon as you walk into a closet, and some like them hidden.
What is your best piece of advice for someone trying to stay organized?
I normally tell my clients to go through everything in the closet. If you no longer wear it or need it, get rid of it. If the designer does the job right, there's a place for everything. If you're organized in your closet, it's going to make the rest of your life more organized.
Custom closet projects from The Closet Works include a little bit of science and art, as well as some expertise from one of our Design Consultants.
What questions would you want to ask one of our experts? Let us know in the comments below, and if you’re interested in learning more or getting started, request a free, in-home consultation.